dir: Justin Lin
Wow, five movies in, this series must have some serious foundations to it. It must have deep and complex dramatic character trajectories, resonant symbolism and references extending back over the collective 10 hours or so of Fast and the Furious mythology that audiences have come to crave and demand. People don’t just want Fast Furious flicks, they’re threatening to overthrow the Empire if they don’t get their Fast Furious fix every few years.
Or maybe, just like any bad thing that keeps coming back like a brain craving zombie, they just keep coming back because they are tremendously, inexplicably liked by audiences and they want to eat our delicious brains.
I can’t really say whether this is a good Fast Furious flick, better than the others, or worse. I’ve seen them all but can recall very little about any of their plots or what the point of any of it was apart from having people race cars very fast and yell at each other loudly in moments where men in love with each other can’t express their emotions in positive ways, so they bump each other’s chests and threaten each other.
What I can say is that this is as thoroughly goofy as the other flicks (though perhaps not as completely retarded as the third one set in Tokyo for no discernible reason), does not use earth logic or earth physics, and really is so flat out unbelievable that it’s the very essence of a summer flick (America’s summer season, which has just started, hence all the big budget brain dead releases).
And yes, I should have been able to get on board and enjoy it for what it is, but it’s just too fucking stupid for words a lot of the time, and I don’t work like that. For me to accept something as silly as this it has to be fun as well, and there’s precious little fun in something that chugs along so mechanically.
This fifth flick in this inexplicable series has the advantage of being set in Brazil. And also, perversely, it’s not really about car racing, despite this being a series of flicks that are supposed to be entirely about the joys of car racing. A crucial factor, I guess, but maybe I’m mistaking the true appeal of this series: People just want to see Vin Diesel's leg-like arms, and Paul Walker not talking, and now they want to see Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson slapping people around as a bonus.
As well, they presumably want to see these characters, and many of their friends from the other films, running an absurdly complicated heist to get back at some guy who’s the criminal kingpin of Rio (Joaquim de Almeida) and steal 100 million dollars worth of his money. So you’d think it was an Ocean’s Eleven-type flick just with more meatheads, yeah?
Way before the actual ridiculously absurd heist, so much crap occurs that makes no sense that it could only have worked had someone already anesthetised themselves with whatever substances were at hand in order to not care.
I didn’t have it in me, I have to say. Watching this stone cold sober (okay, with access only to a small hip flask), I wasn’t able to flick the switch and accept it. I just couldn’t. I couldn’t give this the benefit of the doubt the way I can for flicks even less respectful of the laws of physics like ones that have Jason Statham in them (Transporter this, Crank that).
I just couldn’t accept the first major action set piece that has two of our alleged heroes, O’Connor (Walker) and Torreto (Diesel) in a sports car racing towards a cliff next to a rail bridge. The car is going whatever speed it’s going (let’s say it’s very fast and leave it at that) before it goes over the cliff. It’s a long drop. The chaps, falling out of the car as it plunges, are travelling very fast towards water.
Surely hitting water at that speed would be fatal for anyone or anything? Even if they’d jumped from that high up from a stationary point from the bridge itself, and weren’t travelling at breakneck speed before they were airborne, surely they would have…
It’s pointless, of course, but a start like that fucks things up for me, because it lets me know that taking any aspect of it seriously, or at least seriously enough to care or think about anything that happens, is next to impossible, and that I’m not going to have the suspension of disbelief necessary to give a good goddamn.
The wanted crim/heroes end up in Brazil, pursued both by the kingpin’s hired goons, and by some hardcore government types sent in from the States, who run around Brazil like they own the place, led by The Rock. If Vin Diesel looks like a big, steroided-up gorilla, The Rock looks like the gorilla’s bigger, even more steroided-up meaner brother. The highpoint of the flick, and I’m sure millions of audience-goers the world over will disagree, is watching these meatheads giving each other what-for in a brutish and brutal knockdown-drag-out affair, where they kick the shit out of each other for five or so glorious minutes. It was a shame when it ended, because then I knew people were going to start talking again, and a plot so implausible that it sounded like it was secretly stolen from the Dear Diary of a ten-year-old boy was going to start chugging along once more.
Our heroes come up with a plan to steal the kingpin’s money, which involves provoking him into putting all the money in one location. To do this, they go to the first of a list of his stashes, and set fire to several million dollars worth of his blood money.
Why? Well… I don’t know. I don’t understand why they didn’t just take it. But then I’m really not as smart as the key demographic they were hoping (and got, in record droves last weekend) to entertain.
I also don’t understand how the franchise’s core principle or idea (that high speed car chases are fun to watch, or that the kinds of people who are awesome at underground racing are awesome themselves) morphed into this idea that their competence behind the wheel meant they were virtually special forces types or master criminals who could pull off the heist of the century in a country where they don’t even speak the fucking language.
The script sets up the difficulties and obstacles, and then finds solutions for them - there’s no doubting their enthusiasm for the task - but the solutions are so amateurishly unbelievable that I couldn’t believe they weren’t almost a satire of heist flicks themselves, or at least an admission that they realised how implausible all of this was.
No-one in the audience I saw this with laughed once, so I can’t say if it was intentionally trying to be funny or tongue-in-cheek. In which case I’m just going to assume they didn’t care.
There are even more unbelievable scenes forthcoming, building up to a finale where two people drag a three tonne room sized bank vault around with two cars and cables, which is even dumber than it sounds, but the scene I remember the most which tickled my nausea and left me scratching my head comes much earlier than the end. As they are pursued by The Rock and his government goons, two of the main characters (the white guy and the racially indistinct one) are intentionally tracked to an underground racing venue. They sit, complacent as sultans with shit-eating grins akimbo with The Rock getting all angry and ordering them around. Rock’s goons point guns at our heroes. Vin Diesel somehow manages to mispronounce Brazil, and then everyone in Brazil points a gun at The Rock, which results in himself and the goons walking away, but not before saying, “I’ll let you go for now, but next time…”
Scene over, onto the next sequence. But I couldn’t even randomly imagine why he would get into his van and drive away, with the intention of resuming the search for these two chaps at some later time to be determined at a later date, as if they’d been playing chasey, and someone had crossed their fingers for immunity from being ‘it’.
What? Why? You fuckers are adults, for crying out loud.
This series of flicks, as far as I’m concerned, a concern that stems mostly from ignorance, arises less out of the idea that car racing looks visually entertaining, and more so the extension of what is seen in R&B and hip hop/rap film clips where women bend over or up or recline slowly over very expensive cars, as the ultimate wish fulfilment fantasy/reinforcement. They’re movie-length brainless music clips advertising a lifestyle that doesn’t exist except for the children of Saudi royals or drug dealers. It’s as if to say “there are people who live like that all day every day, that’s the sum and total of their lives, you filthy commoners, and here are their adventures”.
They do little for me. Whatever ‘fun’ might be on offer is so completely mitigated by the fundamental stupidity of the script, and the fact that the characters are virtually non-existent, that I can’t care enough to even find it fluff. It’s so ineffable that it barely made any impression on my consciousness at all. I actually like Vin Diesel and know he can act (less so Paul Walker, though I did like him a lot in Running Scared), but none of the people are here for their acting. They’re here to inhabit space for a while, say something dumb every now and then, and wait until a car chase can be organised. And they’re mostly CGI action sequences, so they’ll be waiting a long time.
5 ways in which it must be so easy to steal four police cars just by jumping a fence in Rio out of 10
“This just went from Mission: Impossible to Mission: In-freaking-sanity.” – please avoid, in future, allowing your preschool-aged kids to edit your screenplays, okay you fine fresh fellows? – Fast and the Furious 5